Chicago-raised trumpeter Marquis Hill, winner of last year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, displays his compositional prowess along with his chops on his fourth recording as a leader, Modern Flows EP Vol. 1. Its 10 original compositions burst with equal parts passion and sophistication, the entire outing suffused with a strong and appealing sense of Afrocentric identity.
Hill’s compositions cover a broad range of styles. “Black Harvest” finds Hill and alto saxophonist Christopher McBride trading spiky bop phrases over drummer Makaya McCraven’s staccato polyrhythms. “The Essence,” with its burnished melodic line for unison horns, includes charming, romantic fills from vibraphonist Justin Thomas. “I Remember Summer” is a serene showcase for vocalist Meagan McNeal. |
Hill’s best playing of the recording is his tight, smartly paced solo on the fascinating “White Shadow,” a tune melding McCraven’s tense runs and thunking bass from Joshua Ramos with a quirky melody that at times recalls a children’s song. This track and three others feature fiery spoken-word performer Keith Winford, who evokes both African-Americans’ regal ancestry (on “King Legend,” backed by McCraven’s stinging hip-hop-styled beats) and often-fraught contemporary circumstances (“White Shadow” finds Winford shouting, “Put me in a chokehold/Struggling to breathe”). Another spoken-word artist, South African poet Tumelo Khoza, graces the album’s intro track; she grandly intones, “Black, you do not lack/You are the crux of all that matters,” wafted along by a hushed melodic statement from Hill and McBride and a smooth groove from electric bassist Bryan Doherty.
Hill’s Monk competition prize included a recording contract with Concord Music Group. If the musical artistry and powerful sociopolitical engagement of the self-released Modern Flows are an indication, we are in for an epochal recording.